For the audience sitting in the Comstock Memorial Union on Feb. 2, Friday night was not just another drag.
Instead, the MSUM Dragon Entertainment Group and the MSUM Rainbow Dragon Center presented the “Quad-College Drag Show: Steers & Queers Rainbow Rodeo.” Sponsored by the Quad-College LGBT+ student organizations, the event showcased 15 student performers from the MSUM, Concordia, M State and NDSU.
One of the queens was Miss Tequila Sunrise, or her daytime persona of William Lewandowski.
“I feel like a totally different person when I’m all done up,” Lewandowski, a senior this year and the president of SPECTRUM, said. “No one calls me by my actual name in drag.”
This might be due to how drastically Lewandowski changes his appearance before each performance. Whether it’s a blonde wig, polka-dot dress or six-inch heels, multiple factors minimize the masculine personification that is Lewandowski and enhance the feminine confidence queens embody while on stage.
“It’s kind of like having a side of me that I don’t show every day,” Lewandowski said.
However, taking 3.5 hours to transform into Miss Tequila Sunrise doesn’t only affect Lewandowski’s appearance. The outside factors are incredibly important, but what some might not realize is the complete personality switch a queen undergoes.
“I’m somebody else up there,” Lewandowski said. “I’m usually a shy person, but when I do drag, I take aspects that I want in myself and put it into Tequila instead.”
This confidence while being a drag queen was not only seen in Lewandowski Friday night, but with the other brave performers beaming before the spotlight. Lewandowski admires the positive energy of the audience.
“I have a crowd of people who want to be there,” Lewandowski said. “They’re not going to put me down or anything.”
Among the crowd supporting Lewandowski and the other performers was Ilsa Neumiller, a senior at MSUM.
“I am so proud of Will for doing what he is doing,” Neumiller said. “He is being someone he wants to be and not worrying about what others say.”
Considering the Midwest isn’t always the most accepting or comfortable with the passion the queens and kings embody, both Lewandowski and Neumiller have a different mindset.
“As someone who is not really a part of the circle Will is in, I can see where those people are coming from,” Neumiller said. “However, just like any time when you judge a book by its cover, you don’t really know what it’s all about.”
For Lewandowski, it’s about believing in Miss Tequila Sunrise enough that aspects within herself will reign through to Lewandowski’s everyday life.
“Every time I perform, I feel like we’re becoming more of the same person,” Lewandowski said.
The people who know Lewandowski best also agree.
“Tequila is a part of Will, and Will is a part of Tequila,” Neumiller said. “When Will gets all worked up or is excited about something, then I can see more of Tequila in him, but that could just be because Tequila always must be excited and ready to put on a show.”
During the Rainbow Rodeo, Lewandowski did just that. While opening up the show with a cow onesie and performing to “Man! I Feel Like A Woman” by Shania Twain, the audience applauded away any pre-show jitters.
“I was nervous the days leading up to it,” Lewandowski said. “But once Friday hit and I was on stage, I was just like, ‘There’s nothing to be nervous about.’”
Lewandowski tried to encourage the other kings and queens not to be anxious.
“Even in the dressing room, some of the performers were getting nervous and I was like, ‘Guys, we got this,’” Lewandowski said.
The event was some of the performers’ first time in the spotlight, and Lewandowski was no exception. Before Friday night, Lewandowski had only hosted trivia night and drag bingo. Being on stage as a “true queen” was something new to both Lewandowski and Miss Tequila Sunrise.
“I’ve only been performing since the summer of 2017,” Lewandowski said. “But I’ve never performed with the whole lip-syncing thing until the event.”
Although Lewandowski went to FM Pride in drag last summer, the buildup in confidence and also resources took time.
“I hate looking back at the pictures, but you start out with what you have and at that point I didn’t really have much makeup,” Lewandowski said. “I probably spent $800, if not more, since then.”
However, the cost of being Miss Tequila Sunrise is priceless.
“He has opened my mind and allowed me to experience things I never have before,” Neumiller said. “Because of that, I have to thank both Will and Tequila for what they do.”